Asst. Police Chief, medical examiner take stand in Thompson trial


by & Tove Tupper & Katie Utehs

Posted on October 19, 2011 at 9:40 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 19 at 6:26 PM

YAKIMA, Wash.-- The trial of Spokane Police Officer Karl Thompson resumed Wednesday with Assistant Police Chief Jim Nicks.

Thompson is accused of use of excessive force and lying to investigators in the arrest of Otto Zehm five years ago.  Zehm died two days later.

Assistant Police Chief Jim Nicks was supposed to take the stand Tuesday afternoon, but it was delayed until Wednesday.

Nicks began by talking about the ranking of police officers in the Spokane PD.

He then went on to discuss an email sent out by PIO Tom Lee to the department after the incident. The email reportedly explained what happened, and according to testimony, says a large and strong man lunged at police.

Nicks says he does not remember seeing or talking to Karl Thompson at the scene, nor does he remember talking to the defendent about correcting the inaccurancy of the lunge statement.

Nicks said he was briefed about the incident after it happened by Tom Lee, Sgt. Peterson, and Joe Walker.

Nicks changed his initial statements to the media after the 2006 incident at a north Spokane Zip Trip.
Court documents released this August revealed Nicks said the Major Crimes Unit failed to do a side-by-side comparison between Thompson’s recorded statements about the incident and the surveillance video.

Nicks also made sworn statements that Thompson acted inappropriately when he beat and tasered Otto Zehm, and that he found Zehm to be retreating the entire time Thompson advanced on him.
In statements made to the U.S. Attorney's Office Monday, Assistant chief Jim Nicks said Karl Thompson tried to manipulate him.

After Nicks stepped down, Dr. Sally Aiken of the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office took the stand. She says she has performed nearly 7,000 autopsies.

Aiken says based on law and the police involvement, the hospital notified her office when Zehm was declared brain dead.

The government had Aiken identify Zehm’s autopsy photos.

She says injuries to Zehm's head could be from a baton, but she's can't say so 100 percent.

Baton strikes to the head would likely be ruled excessive based on Spokane Police Department policy.

The prosecution is working to prove Thompson hit Zehm in the head. The defense says his injuries could have come from a struggle in the store aisle and not baton strikes.

Zehm was an organ donor, so there were organs removed, and the surgary cuts went through some of the taser marks, says Aiken. She added not all of Zehm’s injuries were documented at the emergency room because they were trying to save his life. Aiken said more were documented at autopsy.